Thursday, March 22, 2007

Trust seeks help buying historic land

Folks - found this in the Raleigh News and Observer. If you are not a member of the Civil War Preservation Trust, please consider joining - they do great work. Not only are they seeking donations for this project, but also the 208 - Slaughter Pen at Fredericksburg. The later was ground fought over by Jame's H. Lane's brigade of North Carolinians.

Trust seeks help buying historic land
Acquisition boosts preservation

Peggy Lim, Staff Writer
The Civil War Preservation Trust recently appealed to its members across the country -- help us save about 188 acres at Bentonville Battlefield.

The trust closed on the land in December but still needs to raise $80,000 to get a $720,000 match from federal and state grants to pay for it.

The Battle of Bentonville, March 19-21, 1865, was the largest fought in North Carolina and one of the last clashes in the closing days of the Civil War. In 1993, Congress declared Bentonville one of the 11 most important battlefields for preservation. But until the late 1990s, only about 244 acres of its sprawling 6,000 had been saved.

Landowners, with deep roots in the southern Johnston County community, have helped turn that around in recent years. Total acreage preserved at Bentonville has grown to 1,103, said site manager Donny Taylor. In 2006 alone, the Civil War Preservation Trust was able to acquire 300 acres at Bentonville.

"Bentonville is one of the flagships of battlefield preservation," said Mary K. Goundrey, a spokeswoman for the trust. Only a few battlefields in Mississippi and Virginia have more preserved land, Goundrey said.

The acquisitions have given visitors to the Bentonville site a more vivid experience, Taylor said. The park added descriptive markers to a driving tour.

"Sitting at home, you can imagine," he said. "But here, you can get a good idea of what the troops had to fight through -- open fields, woodland."

History buffs are particularly excited about the trust's latest acquisition. The purchase gets land used on the third day of the battle, which saw "Mower's Charge" -- when the Union side captured the field headquarters of Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston.

Charlie Davis, 64, who grew up on part of the 188-acre tract, said he sold the land as a memorial to his mother.

"It was her lifeblood," Davis said. She and Davis' grandmother had been active in early grass-roots fundraising efforts in the 1950s to buy a 51-acre tract, including the historic Harper House, which served as a hospital during the battle. His mother worked in a gift shop on the site until her health declined in the mid-1990s, he said.

Residents also sell to preserve a quieter way of life -- preventing hog farms, subdivisions or mobile home parks from moving in, said Philip Shaw, president of the Bentonville Battlefield Historical Association.

"It just stays farmland, and that's the main objective," said Tim Westbrook, 50 and a tobacco farmer, while tinkering with a greenhouse lawn mower on part of the Mower's Charge battleground. "You don't own it anymore, but you know it's going to be looked after."
Westbrook, who continues to live and farm on battlefields, sold about 80 acres to the Civil War Preservation Trust in June.

"When the state takes land, Bentonville is not going to grow in population," he said. "But we're willing to do that to keep it like it is."

Westbrook makes exception for the crowds, noisy cannons and hundreds of horses that turn out for major battle re-enactments once every five years. The one in 2005 drew about 40,000 spectators and 4,000 re-enactors. The events raise money for the community's volunteer fire department, which handles concessions.

And Westbrook said, "It helps unite the community."

Staff writer Peggy Lim can be reached at 836-5799 or

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